Everything starts somewhere, when everybody listens to so much rock and roll and says, ha, Chuck Berry influence, they’re right but they ain’t only right. Berry came out of the blues and like Dylan could steal from old time folkies so Berry could use blues formats for rock and roll.
Listen to this, Trixie Smith’s nothing if not salacious “My Daddy Rocks Me”, which is not merely the first mention of “rock and roll” -very much so a euphemism for sex but also the blueprint for Chuck Berry’s “Reelin’ And Rockin'”. A different melody but a familiar song structure.
Trixie Smith was a middle class black woman from Atlanta, Ga who became a singer and actress. In 1922 she co-wrote “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” with J. Berni Barbou. A long night of fucking is interrupted by Trixie checking the clock on the wall: “I looked at the clock and the clock struck three, I said now daddy you are killing me”.
Hot stuff, and Chuck Berry took it and tied it to a rock and roll concept in “Reelin’ And Rollin'”: “I looked at my watch and it was 9:43 and every time I spinned she’d spin with me”. Yes, this is the same idea and moved youthful, for the kids, and forward in sound. It isn’t the same song but it has the roots, the difference is beat and the difference is desire. “Reelin’ And Rockin'” melody is sweeter, without the blues structure the song is all uplift, “”My Daddy Rocks Me” has the drawn out moan of fucking all night, and “Reelin’ And Rockin'” is getting its kicks dancing all night. One is adult pleasures and the other is youthful exuberance.
But it is fun to hear Berry so close to his influences. When you compare “Sweet Little Sixteen” with “Surfing USA”, you don’t hear the metamorphoses you do with Berry and Smith. Berry took an idea and changed it 30 years later whereas there wasn’t a decade between the Beach Boys and Berry.
My Daddy Rocks Me – Trixie Smith – A
Reelin’ And Rockin’ Chuck Berry – A+
Sweet Little Sixteen – Chuck Berry – A
Surfin’ USA – Beach Boys – A
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – September 1985 (Volume 17, Number 4)
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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1985 (Volume 17, Number 2)
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